5 (plus 5 more!) Tools For Creating a Screencast

5 Free Tools

Sarah Kessler over at Mashable posted a nicely succinct piece today about 5 Free Tools For Creating a Screencast.  Included are:

If you’re testing your hand at screencasting, Sarah’s article is a nice list to get started with.

And Here’s 5 More!

From the list above, I might recommend Techsmith’s Jing as one to get started with.  Although, Articulate’s Screenr is pretty decent, as well.

That said, after the screencasting bug bites you, you’ll eventually want to start considering paid versions of screencasting software.  The main reason is because of the flexibility and robustness of editing, zoom/pans, callouts, to say nothing yet about the flexibility they afford in production settings.

For paid versions of screencasting software, I’ve long been had a hard-on (can I say that) for:

And, for the under $100 crowd, there’s:

  • Shinywhitebox’s iShowU family of products.
  • Animoto.com.  This is a nifty little tool that lets you create video slideshows.  It’s worth a looksee if you haven’t checked it out yet.  Prices range from Free to a couple of flavors of subscription plans.
  • and finally, I’d also add CamStudio.  (Not to be confused with Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio listed above.)  This on’e opensource / freeware.

What Else?

But, the field’s always changing.  Do you have any recommendations you think should be on the list above?

5 Great Ideas for Using QR Codes to Build Your Network

MelAclaro.com QR CodeQR Codes have graced the list of discussion topics lately in some of the marketing meetups I’ve  attended.

Although they’ve been around since 1994 and have gained some traction overseas, QR Codes have only recently begun gaining increased traction here in the U.S.  Mainly because of the proliferation of smartphones.  (Gartner: 172 million smartphones sold last year; up 24%.)

How To Scan a QR Code

For my friends who haven’t heard of QR Codes, let alone having ever scanned one before, I took the liberty of placing a little quick reference tutorial through the image link below.

How To Scan a QR Code

Download the Tutorial Above (Free)

If you want to download the tutorial above, here’s the link on the left.  (It comes with no express or implied warranties… yadda yadda.)

It’s free.  No signup forms or other strings attached.  Just download it and extract it.

The particulars

It downloads as a zip file.  When you extract the zip file, it expands to include two files (index.html; engage.swf) and a folder (engage_content).  If you plan on uploading it to your server to play in your own blog, feel free to do so.  Just make sure to keep the same relative file structure.

The file that launches the tutorial is the index.html file.

The Problem With QR Codes

Why am I making the tutorial available as a free download?  Because, one problem with QR Codes is that, although 172 million smartphones were sold last year, the thing of it is, there are still a lot of folks who have never scanned one before.  So, you can implement the great tips I’m going to tell you about below, but if the person who drives by your yard sign with the QR Code on it (for my real estate agent friends) or the contact who picks up your business card with the QR Code on the back of it, has no idea about how to scan a QR Code, then it’s sort of a moot point.

What I’ve found is that it helps to also include a little knowledge enabler, along with the QR Code image placement.  It helps those folks who are still trying to wrap their head around the idea of what the heck this funny looking dotted-square-thingy is all about.

The tutorial above can be that enabler.

I’m making it available for you to download and place on your own site if you want because I figure some of you may not want to use my blogsite as the knowledge enabler.

Don’t worry, I get it.  It’s a branding thing.

So, download it.  Then, put it on your site and include a small bit.ly link to it in small type somewhere visually near where you place your QR Code in your marketing collateral.  (Full disclosure, I tried to keep the tutorial relatively brand-free so it would be of use to you.  ‘Fact is, though, I needed a couple of examples.  So in a couple of panels, it’s actually my QR Code image that’s included.  Also, there’s one panel that has a snapshot of a website; the snapshot is one of my (this) blog.  But, other than that, I think I did a pretty good job of keeping it fairly brand neutral.)

5 Great Ideas for Using QR Codes to Build Your Network

Now, if you know how to create a QR Code (should I write that post next?), then here are some ideas you may want to consider.

1.  Place it on the back of your business card. Have the QR Code link back to, say:

  • your LinkedIn profile,
  • a web page where your VCF card can be downloaded,
  • a YouTube video,
  • an About page on your blog
  • or, better yet, a contact signup form.

2.  Print one on a custom name badge. Wear it at your next trade show or industry conference.  (Same link-back examples as above.)

3.  Marketing collateral. Place a QR Code on your yard signs, flyers, postcards where the buyer / prospect can find out more about the property or product.  (Tip for my trainer-colleagues, place a QR Code on your handouts.  Have it linke back to a resources page on your site.)

4.  Products. Place a QR Code on tradeshow trinkets like cups, T-shirts and other giveaways.  (Tip for restaurateurs:  Place QR Codes on your menu and have it link directly to your business page on Yelp.com.)

5.  Your car. (Hmmm… your car?)  Well, Danica Patrick has a QR Code on the hood of her car.

Your Turn

What other ideas can you think of for the use of QR Codes for small businesses?

How To Link To a Specific Timecode In YouTube Videos

format for youtube timecodeI posted this little bit of info over a year-and-a-half ago on BusinessCasualBlog about linking to a specific point in YouTube videos.  Surprisingly, even after more than a year-and-a-half, it’s still one of the most popular searches on that site.  So, considering that that’s probably a clue of a bit of demand for that info, I figured it’s worth sharing with you, as well.  Certainly it’s relevant to the kind of topics you and I discuss here.

The URL Format You Want To Use

The picture above is the syntax (format) you want to add to the tail-end of a YouTube URL if you want to send someone to a specific timecode in a YouTube video.  The explanation of variables goes like this:

  • #t (This defines the line between the “regular” YouTube URL and the timecode you want to define as the landing point.)
  • h (This signifies hours.)
  • m (Signifies minutes.)
  • s (Signifies seconds.)

As a practical example, let’s say that I wanted to direct you to the exact spot where my friend Scott Schang mentions the book Cluetrain Manifesto in the video of a panel discussion we participated in recently.  Well, I could tell you to click the link below and then scrub to the point at about 5 minutes and 35 seconds (5m:35s) into the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRuEgmrabrU

Or, I could just as well say, click the link below:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRuEgmrabrU#t=0h5m35s

Notice the difference in URLs? The second has the added syntax.

Go ahead, give it a try.

Your Turn

Do you have a similarly helpful tip?  Please share it in the comments below.

In the meantime, it’s Friday.  I hope you’re preparing for a great weekend.  Let me know if there’s anything cool this weekend that’s worth checking out.  I’m wide open for the weekend; unless you give me an option, I’m probably gonna otherwise just be mowing my lawn.  So, save me… tell me what else could I be doing?!

The poor man’s wireless microphone: How to use a digital voice recorder as a walkaround microphone

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By the way, while you’re here, download the free mini-course and other freebies.

Well, okay, maybe the title’s “poor man” reference is a bit of a misnomer.  I mean, to the extent that an iPhone can be considered a “poor man’s” tool is debatable, right?

But, when you consider replacing everywhere I say or use the word iPhone in the video above with the words digital voice recorder, then maybe it makes a bit more sense.  When you start comparing the cost of a digital voice recorder (about $50 to $200 for one with decent sound quality) with a wireless microphone system setup (which can range from a few hundred shells to several thousands), the case for a poor man’s wireless microphone starts sounding a little better.

But, even if you were to shell out for a wireless lavalier microphone system, it would still cost at least a few hundred bucks for just one such system.  Add another talking-head or two into your video and you can see where expenses start racking up.  Those can be tough expenses to justify, especially if all you want to do is record passably good quality audio / video for purposes of video-blogging and the occasional client interview.

4 Video-blogging Anti-Best Practices

The issue I’m addressing in this post relates to a discussion we had a couple of weeks ago during one of our SMMOC meetings (Social Media Mastermind, Orange County roundtable).  At that meeting the topic of blogging, video-blogging and web video came up.  Of course, I perked right up.

One of the points we bantered about were some of the best practices in video-blogging.  I mentioned some of my personal anti-favorites:

  • Recording with a computer-mounted webcam — especially when you get too close to the mounted camera (you’re bustin’ my personal space, man!)
  • Recording a video blog with a webcam while in your bedroom — and especially with your bed gracing the space in the background (hmm…too creepy)
  • Poor / dim / yellowish lighting (put me to sleep already)
  • Poor audio — especially having room echo, white noise, and so on (ugh, are you kidding me?)

During the audio portion of our SMMOC discussion, I made the suggestion — which I’ll make to you, as well — of using a microphone whenever you can.  Even if it’s a corded microphone, get one with a long cord so that you can benefit from allowing yourself some “walking around space” and a bit of distance from the camera.  This naturally segued to discussing tips about getting good audio quality even when you’re all the way on the other side of the room from the camera.  Or, even more so — say when you’re all the way across an open field or a river stream from your camera.  How do you get good sound to record with your video when you’re far away from your camera?

Well, of course, a wireless or lavalier type microphone, transmitter and receiver system is a good way to go.  And, while I show just such a device in the first part of the video above, the fact is that I spent a few hundred bucks for mine.  That might be a bit much for some folks.  Especially if you’re still just dangling your feet and touching your toes in the waters of this whole video-blogging pool thingy.

A Digital Voice Recorder Can Help You Inexpensively Get Some “Walking Around” Space While Recording Your Video

So, for a few hundred dollars less than a wireless audio system setup, I made the point about using a digital voice recorder.  I happen to use the Voice Memos app that comes standard with my iPhone 3GS.  Although, you can pretty much use whatever you want.  The only requirements I would say are:

  • Listen to the quality of the audio recorded.  Make sure it’s, uh, sound. (Pun intended.)  It sorta defeats the purpose otherwise
  • The audio should be easily transferrable to your computer
  • The audio file format should be easily transferred into your video editing software. (Of course this implies you have video editing software.)

The Biggest Challenge About Recording Audio On a Digital Recording Device That’s Separate From Your Camera Is…

…Syncing.  That is, you have to go through a few steps to sync up the audio file from your digital voice recorder with the talking-head’s lips in the video.  (Remember those b-level martial movies where the samurai guy is seen talking, but the sound doesn’t go with what his lips appear to be saying?  That’s the effect we don’t want to have.)

Solution:  To get the audio and video sync’d up, take a step somewhere in the beginning of your recording session and clap.  Yes, clap!

After you turn on the camera and are recording both video and audio, make sure your digital voice recorder is in your pocket somewhere close to your mouth.  (Like in a pocket of your shirt or blouse.)  Or, better yet, use a corded microphone clipped to your shirt and which is connected to your digital recorder.

Then, with both these devices turned on, clap loudly three times.  This will give you three hard audio “spikes” (see below) that will appear in both your camera’s audio track and the digital recorder’s audio that you can use to sync up after you import them both into your video editor.

Caveats For Your Video Editor

  • Make sure it supports the ability to view audio files as “wave forms” (similar to what’s shown in the picture above)
  • It helps to have the ability to have multi-tracks.  This means that you can place different audio (or video) clips “on top” of one another.  For example, in the picture above, notice how there are three rows (called tracks in video-speak) for the audio files.

Video Editing Software That Will Work For This

  • For the PC:
    • Windows Movie Maker (usually bundled free with your PC) actually has one additional audio track you can use in addition to the audio that comes with the video.  They usually use it for music, but you can place your digital audio file there, too.  Then just match up the spikes in the same way I show you in the video.
  • For the Mac:
    • Sadly, I don’t think iMovie (usually comes with your Mac) displays audio waveforms.  (Someone help me out here?)  Consequently, I’d say it might be worth investing a bit in another Mac-based video editor like Final Cut Express (about $99 last I checked… ‘might even actually come bundled free with some Mac purchases.)

Your Turn

What other tips and tricks do you have about getting good quality audio and video on a shoestring budget?